As that great green baize expert Rocky Balboa put it: “it’s not about hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.”

John Higgins epitomised this spirit last season. He was hit with all sorts: some his own fault, some the fault of others and some nobody’s fault but sheer fate.

And he came through it all to win a fourth world title, third UK title and produce some snooker so tough, so admirable that it led Steve Davis to describe him on BBC television as ‘the greatest ever.’

I assumed Steve, who as we know has a deep, pure, genuine love of snooker, had got a little carried away but he repeated the same statement a few days later at the World Snooker awards.

This post isn’t a debate about who the greatest of all time is (although, for me, it’s Stephen Hendry) but I can understand what Davis is saying because Higgins plays the sort of game he himself played so well for so long.

The Scot isn’t a go-for-anything type. He has a snooker knowledge so strong it is almost innate. He knows what the right shot is in pretty much every scenario and has the clarity of thought to play it.

In this, Higgins is in the Davis line but has taken this particular game to a whole new level.

His fighting qualities at the Crucible were remarkable, almost as if he resolved simply not to lose.

Michael Holt and Shaun Murphy were the only players to beat him in a tournament that carried ranking points last season, although missing early tournaments meant Higgins is second behind Mark Williams in the world rankings.

Indisputably, though, he is the best player in the world right now and it’s hard to imagine his general approach changing during the new campaign.

He didn’t have to go down to Gloucester for three days to play in the Pink Ribbon tournament but did so and, having been denied the chance to play snooker for a few months last year, is obviously relishing it again.

This makes him very dangerous because among the acres of stuff written about him, nobody has ever disputed his abilities on the table.

He’s good for a few years yet and who is to say he can’t get close to Hendry’s haul of seven world titles? Interestingly, he is playing to a higher standard in his 30s than Hendry managed so it is not inconceivable.

I don’t agree with Davis that Higgins is the greatest of all time...but there is still time for that change.


kildare cueman said...

True, Higgins plays the game that Davis aspired to and attained, that is, all round consistency, good safety and heavy scoring.

Like Davis, Higgins has a very good percentage game, and has no compunction about putting a colour safe when losing position on 50, whereas O'Sullivan and Hendry might take on a 40-60 pot and risk their lead.

All time great debates though, tend to be biased towards the current form player. Only two years ago, the "greatest ever" discussion was centred around O'Sullivan and Hendry, and it would not surprise me if Davis bestowed that accolade to another in a season or two.

As the game evolves, so should the standard, with each generation benefitting from the last. Who's to say if Joe or Steve Davis, Reardon or even Pulman would not be the best ever if they had been born in the 70s.

The one thing we do know is that its not necessarily the brilliance that makes winners, but the pottable balls you don't miss (just ask Tony Drago), and again, like Davis, Higgins is very dependable on taking whats there.

My conclusion on the greatest ever? The jury's out. You can argue the case for any of the players named above, and while Steves opinion is weighty, it is no more valid than any avid snooker watcher who has an understanding of the game's mechanics.

Higgins is the man of the moment, but I think he needs another season or two like this one before he starts to pull away from his contemporaries in the all time stakes.

Steve said...

You were very condescending when Steve first made that comment that he thought Higgins was the greatest ever; dismissing it as, as you admit, him getting carried away.

In actual fact, it's clear that Steve Davis is the ultimate thinking snooker analyst and puts a great amount of thought into his opinions.

Yes, he may have changed his opinions over the years, from Ronnie to now Higgins but that just shows that he is open to reevaluating his judgement based on new data, something which I can't say for yourself Dave, no offence.

Anonymous said...

Higgins might be playing better snooker than Hendry in his 30s but Higgins has not reached anything like what Hendrty at his best Played.

Higgins would not be World Champion at the moment had he faced Hendry of the 90s in the World Championship.

Janie Watkins said...

Not only the man to beat on the table, but off the table also.

I've been lucky to be with John at the Pink Ribbon and now in Sofia, where John will do an exhibition tonight.

He is the ultimate pro out on the road, meeting everyone with a smile and chat and doing all the autographs, photos etc.

A great ambassador.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing the character that Higgins showed throughout last season.

During the world championship, he was described as 'Scottish granite,' and that is exactly what he is.

I've been a Higgins fan for all my life, and it is a pleasure to see him at the top when it could so easily have all been taken away from him.

A worthy champion he is, and he has raised the bar in snooker to a whole new level.

wild said...

seriously Hendry at his best would have slaughtered him...he really did not play all that well he had a lot of help from players flopping.

he did what he had to do and did it well.

Urindragon said...

What about China Open? didn't smurf dismiss Higgins?

Anonymous said...

In fairness it was absurd that Steve said that about Higgins. I do think he was getting carried away, and while there's no questioning Steve's knowledge of the game, he does seem to be more and more prone to saying things which don't really add up, without really thinking properly about what he's saying.

I know everyone can have their own opinions, but in all honesty I just can't understand how anyone can rate anyone other than Hendry as the greatest there's ever been.

One possible explanation is that people have simply forgotten just how good Hendry was. It's true that in the tactical exchanges and the scrappy frames he came up short. But his game was always built around going for everything he had a chance of potting, then trying to get the balls open and killing the frame off as quickly as he could.

He was so unbelievably good at it on such a consistent basis, that it more than made up for the shortcomings in other areas.

For what it's worth, if pressed on it I would now rate Higgins as the all-time number two, but even having said that, I just can't see any argument that adds up, for putting him ahead of Hendry.

Dave H said...

Sorry, of course Murphy beat Higgins in Beijing. Thanks, I have now amended my original story.

ollie said...

Janie, whatever Higgins's merits as a player (which are considerable), I don't think that most of us will ever again be able to regard him as a "great ambassador" for snooker.

He lost any claim to that accolade in the space of 10 minutes in a Kiev hotel room last year. I have no doubt that he is sorry, that he bitterly regrets what he did. But the stain won't go away.

jamie brannon said...

I imagine this is the end of the player profiles.

Seems to be the right way to bow out, but felt that Stephen Maguire should have got a profile. He would be in my bracket of eight or nine players who are regular contenders to win tournaments.

Anonymous said...

Strangely I don't remember Davis calling Higgins greatest ever in May 2010, or have I missed something? Where was all this talk about true ambassador and the best player the game has ever seen when scandal broke?
Maybe Hendry should promise some journalists to throw a match ot two to take back this "greatest ever" accolade, as number of titles won and untainted reputation means nothing at all.

True, Higgins last year did a lot to introduce snooker to general public, but mostly for reasons that can't be called right. Maybe it really represents the values of modern snooker, I don't know.
But really, winning 23 titles and being involved in worst scandal in snooker over 20 years makes someone the greatest player ever? You must be kidding.
And it really would sound more believable if the same was said a year ago. Especially coming from Davis.

147 said...

On another point. Dave will the ptcs ever be televised surely this needs URGENT ATTENTION an obvious opportunity for eurosport.Also very good points made by Kildarecueman.

Ray said...

I never thought that anyone would be able to play at the highest standard for longer than Stephen Hendry. Yet it seems Higgins is doing just that. I thought Hendry would still be a winner in his 40s because to my mind he's the greatest player to ever pick up a cue.
Another thing I can't get my head round is that golfers in their 40s and 50s continue to play at a very high standard and even win though this is a much harder sport. You can't imagine any snooker player doing in their sport, as 59 year old Tom Watson did by getting to within one shot of winning the Open. It really confounds me.

Dave H said...

147 - I can't say too much on this but there's a lot going on behind the scenes and it should mean you can watch action from the PTCs in due course

jamie brannon said...

Would be interested to hear whether Dave and others consider Higgins to now be above O'Sullivan and Davis in the all time list?

Davis has always punctuated his shrewd snooker knowledge with ractionary statements that have not been cogently thought out.

Once he said that you could go back to the top 32 of of ten years go and that none of them would be as good as the top 32 so many years on. An absurd and statistically incorrect declaration.

Hendry is still the greatest as his body of work remains unsurpassed in the modern game, although even playing like he did in the nineties he would have not won seven titles in the last ten years.

The argument for Higgins would be that by maintaing his standard longer than Hendry in an even tougher era, he is the greatest.

Colin M said...

Interesting that J Higgins commented that Steve was the greatest player in his eyes, after the 2010 defeat.

I've been watching the game for years and I think J.Higgins has taken Davis' game to a higher level, especially in terms of break-building and difficult clearances. I think the differential is small and I think Steve's victory last year proves how good he was (and is).

jamie brannon said...

Higgins is probably a better player than Davis - although didn't see Davis in the eighties - but it is not a better tactician than him now, let alone back then.

The only reason Davis has managed to stay on tour over the years is through sheer tactical nous. His scoring power waned years ago, and the amount of elementary mistakes he makes is higher than most other pro's than I have seen.

147 said...

Dave- thanks very much for your prompt response.Im sure you,ll keep us up to date on any developments cheers.

willer said...

I actually think that Davis is the greatest player ever. He won more tournaments than HEndry, Hendry only won more rankers because there were more rankers in the 90's than 80's. Davis still won more professional titles.

Hendry took break building and long potting to a new level never seen before. But Davis took shot selection and safety play to a level, which was so good, that today he is still one of the best safety players on the tour. He also revolutionized the way players practised, and had a dedication never seen before. Hendry change the scoring side of the game, Davis changed the way players thought about the game

Anonymous said...

i consider jh as the 2nd best ever, still a good bit away from hendo.

wild said...

"Once he said that you could go back to the top 32 of of ten years go and that none of them would be as good as the top 32 so many years on. An absurd and statistically incorrect declaration."

steve davis dont half talk a lot of bull..never has a pundit talked more rubbish than him.

wild said...


you probably right Davis would have won more rankers if there was more in the 80s however hes just lucky hendry was younger than him or he wouldn't have won much during the 80s.

Betty Logan said...

Personally I don't think Higgins is even as good as what he was at the turn of the century; the current standard of the top 4 is probably at its lowest ebb since the 1960s. Higgins is holding up better than Hendry at the same age, but you'd expect that from a more tactical player. Even Davis pushing 40 when he was still winning titles would be a world title contender in the current climate. Let's be honest, no-one since 2004 has had to play well to win the world title. I think snooker is going to skip a generation, I don't really see Maguire, Murphy, Robbo and Selby becoming standard setters now. Maybe Ding will come good or Trump will seize the moment.

Betty Logan said...

Wild> To be fair, Hendry only really took over from Davis when Davis got married and reached that age when your long-potting starts to go. Until then he was out in the cold. If Davis was younger, I don't think Hendry would have had a look in until 1993, and it was all over by 1998 really. Hendry was a great player at his best, but he was a man for the times. Given how the game was and how it has gone I don't think a game completely built around break-building could have dominated any other era than the one it did, whereas I think Davis could dominated or at least been a top player in any era. That's what ultimately sells me on Davis.

Betty Logan said...

As for who is the best player of all-time, obviously everyone is going to have their own opinion, but here is mine: Horace Lindrum is the best snooker player that ever lived, but was sadly written out of snooker history due to the 1952 players dispute which saw him win the mickey mouse world championship. Joe Davis was terrified of his scoring ability, and considered Horace to be his greatest rival, although history has been retconned to hand his brother that role. Unfortunately for Horace, the expenses incurred by entering the world championship pretty much reduced his participation to a handful of appearances. On the three occasions he made the final he came up against Joe Davis, who was a hangover from the billiards era and his supreme tactical knowledge saw him edge out Horace on each occasion. Their finals were close run things, and he lost to Walter Donaldson on another couple of occasions too, also another wily tactician.

When Horace arrived on the scene, snooker (courtesy of billiards) was drawing from the largest talent pool a cue sport ever has. Basically every working class man would play billiards, and if they got good enough they turned pro. Put it this way: if 50% of the men in this country played snooker, then the best amateurs would probably beat the current top pros. Many of those that played billiards ultimately ended up playing snooker. The pre-war era perhaps saw the most talented generation of cue-sport players emerge, and it's doubtful that today's players would rank alongside them. Today's players have drawn from a much smaller talent pool, and therefore less talent is produced and as such the standard that is required to succeed is also lower.

We get too hung up on modern times, and the myth that standards are always improving. After the war standards declined as interest in cuesports shrank, and only turned around in the 70s. Snooker peaked again in the 80s, which is why we got a talent peak from 1970s born players (who were at the appropriate age for taking up the sport in the 1980s), and now we are seeing a steady decline in talent mirroring the declining interest of the 1990s (I hate to imagine what the next decade will be like).

But given that cuesports were at their most popular pre-war, its logical to assume that era also produced the most talented cueists. Horace made over a thousand century breaks, and in fewer matches than the likes of Ronnie and Hendry too, and would probably make them look like lightweights if around today. And that was on 1930s and 40s rugs with heavy Crystallate balls too. The conditions of the time probably conspired against Horace's natural strengths, and he was up against the tactical geniuses of the billiards era, but if you could take any player from history to back at next year's world championship Horace would be my man. We have a break-building game now, and he was easily the best break-builder of the most talented era, and I think he would be practically unbeatable in today's game.

131redgreenred said...

So Horace couldn't beat Joe Davis because his tactical game wasn't as good and Joe Davis wouldn't have dominated in the modern era because his break building was not as good as todays standards?

Shouldn't the best player ever be excellent at both a la John Higgins?

Comparisons between eras are extremely hard in any sport. I was around for the late eighties when Hendry was coming on the scene so the best players I have seen are Higgins, Davis and Hendry and in my opinion thats how they should be ranked but it's only an opinion and I'm open to the fact that there were players pre-war that could have beaten these greats, However the presumption that the games popularity led to a greater number of people playing than today I believe is fundamentally wrong.

You say cue sports were most popular pre-war which could easily be true in the british empire but from my limited knowledge of this time it would seem to me that you would almost certainly have had to be a memeber of a private club to play - especially competitively.

I'm not saying today is massively better - I'm a member of a club and it's still far too expensive to play regularly but the barriers to playing now are not nearly as hard to breakdown as they were then.

As we see in other sports at the moment if you want the highest quality sportspeople playing your game EVERYONE needs the chance to play.

As I said my knowledge of this time is not first hand. However the relative inclusion we have now wasn't the case in british society pre-war so I would be massively surprised if cue sports were revolutionarily different.

I value your opinion especially on the case of improved technology putting the pre-war players at a disadvantage but I disagree with the assertion that because snooker was more popular when held in comparison with other sports pre-war - more people were playing and so the standards were higher.

Anonymous said...

Horace Lindrum was a bottler who woudnt last more than a year on the tour. Keep taking the drugs betsy.

Anonymous said...

208, make up your own pet name for betty. betsy is mine!

Betty Logan said...

25 centuries in a single match speaks for itself, not to mention a 2 minute 30 second century break.

jamie brannon said...

Betty, were these matches competitive? You can't be counting exhibition play when assessing who is the greatest?

Betty Logan said...

Virtually all pre-war snooker matches were competitive, because there was no circuit. In fact, the notion of "exhibition" and "competitive" matches is a relatively modern concept. I very much doubt Joe Davis ever played a match he didn't fully intend to try to win.

Anonymous said...

Just reading a past blog about Quinten Hann getting banned for 8 years for agreeing to throw a match in an upcoming tournament. The match did not actually take place as the Sun ran the story immediately. What is the difference with John Higgins and if there is none, how has he received only a 6 month ban?

Dave H said...

The main material difference was that Quinten was filmed actuially giving his bank details so he could be wired £50,000.

The other difference is that he didn't contest the case legally or offer any defence whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

and it was a world snooker event.
and john wasnt a "bad boy" in their eyes already
and john was intimidated


its amazing the anonymous people who find there way on here and the ability to post yet dont have the ability to find that info out themselves

Anonymous said...

I see, not sure how significant the giving of the bank account details is. Seems like a technicality. Mooney could have handed them over if not John himself. It definitely indicates an extra level of intent though. I wonder how it would have played out if they hadn't gone public so quickly and asked for bank details etc, best it wasn't allowed to progress any further for John or snookers sake.

The other thing to bear in mind though was Hann had garnered a reputation for controversy over a number of years, and was probably fed up enough to not bother putting up a defence if he had any.

Pity, a good player. I actually met him a couple of times when he was 12 in Barking, a nice kid but seemed to get a ribbing from certain other players (not Ronnie, who was 13 and seemed already focused on the bigger picture ahead).

Betty Logan said...

I often wonder what would have happened if Higgins had been caught a year earlier, when he was public enemy number 1 to the previous regime. Would have been a golden opportunity for them to bring down the SPA and the coup. It would have been pretty harsh for the new board to kick him out of the game after he was instrumental in getting them all their new jobs. I guess the previous board could have given Hann a soft sentence if they were inclined but they wanted him out, that's why he didn't even bother attending his hearing.

In regards to the Hann case, does anyone know if he paid the fine? I don't really see how they could make him cough up if they expelled him from the WPBSA.

Dave H said...

Both cases were heard by Sports Resolutions. Nothing to do with either board.

Anonymous said...

well said david
come on betsy, dont go all shy now..

Betty Logan said...

That's not strictly true though Dave, the board filed the charges, and ultimately Hann faced more severe charges than Higgins. I don't think anyone's career should be terminated by tabloid entrapment, but there is no denying these two very similar cases were treated very differently by the WPBSA. I'd like to see Hann's case reviewed, but I know it won't happen.

Anonymous said...

now youre talking rubbish Betsy

the two cases arent that similar at all, other than they involve a snooker player and the press.

its people like you who want to see similarities and twist things into looking "the same", whereas there can be an equal list negating those twisted thoughts.

i miss hann. great player, but he ended up getting a harsh sentence but in his case, overall, it was deserved.

Anonymous said...

Back to who is the best ever. O sullivan played the game to a higher standard than anyone else over a 2-3 year period. Altho he didnt win so many titles he was the best ever. With a different mindset he could have won most tournaments in the 2000s and a lot from the 90 s.

Anonymous said...

744 i disagree with your OPINION